Cultural Trail pork?

February 18, 2010
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Just about anyone who works downtown or cares about the city center felt a tinge of excitement yesterday when leaders announced $20 million in federal stimulus would be headed to Indy to complete the Cultural Trail.

Now the project will be finished by 2012, a couple of years earlier than expected. It promises to beautify the downtown and improve infrastructure beneath the surface. The trail will attract investment—what company won’t want to be close? Maybe we’ll even walk off a few pounds.

It also will be done just in time for the Super Bowl. That won’t be lost on hundreds of thousands of visitors.

Even suburban dwellers who never step foot downtown will benefit, because the trail will be an attraction both to top talent and companies looking to expand.

One more plus: Construction workers will begin drawing salaries soon, a major reason the stimulus was passed in the first place. Many economists think the stimulus was a good decision, considering the ugly alternatives.

Now for the “but.” And it’s a big one. How much longer can the federal government continue writing these kinds of checks?

Federal debt held by the public is projected by the Office of Management and Budget to explode. The debt currently is 50 percent of gross domestic product. By 2018, it’s projected to shoot to 85 percent. And don’t ask about the distant future; the trajectory is toward fiscal oblivion.

Keep in mind that the figure needs to be 60 percent or below to stay in the European Union. Sixty percent also is a standard promoted by the International Monetary Fund.

Republicans resist fighting the debt because they fear tax increases. Democrats are hard to get on board because they don’t want to cut government.

Let’s fast-forward a couple of years. If the stimulus accomplishes the goal of keeping the economy out of the abyss, what should the government do? Cut nonessential projects like the Cultural Trail? Raise taxes?

Thoughts about the trail itself?

  • Cultural Trail
    The Trail is a great idea, but is it truly creating sustainable jobs? Our economy needs more than sprinkling of the infield, an irrigation system is needed.
  • Disastrous
    Neither party wants to cut gov't. Gov't does not create jobs. Any jobs created by gov't money are jobs stolen from the private sector. The more money the Federal Reserve prints for the gov't, the more likely we are to see increased inflation and a continued loss of dollar value. The best thing gov't could do is cut back wasteful spending and simultaneously cut taxes. This would instantly turn the economy around as more Americans would have extra monthly income to spend or use to start new businesses, create jobs, etc. We're on a road to ruin if we the people do not stand up and oppose constant gov't interference in the free market. Big gov't = enslavement, limited, constitutional gov't = freedom. The choice is on us.
  • Whoa!
    Love the Cultural Trail. However it did come as a surprise that they would be able to garner 20 million. It seems everyone is trying to get as much money as they can until the print machine breaks. We as a country are diluting our power economic status in the world...and bringing down a number of countries with us. The general public just doesn't get it and won't as long as they think they can get "free money".
  • Cultural Trail
    The Trail is such a positive, commendable idea and was perfect for private money - not taxpayer money. The responders are correct. Enough of this pork. How about let's eliminate several cabinets such as Education, etc. Cut taxes to offset. Then perhsps each of us can make a volutary contribution to the trail.
  • Transparent govt finances are needed
    The US government spends more on its own military bands than it does on arts programs for schoolchildren nationwide. How about targeting THAT for spending cuts?

    Why don't our representatives come out and ask us what we think are the most important things for the fed. govt. to spend money on? Why can't the federal budget be released to the public in language we can understand and in a format of 50 pages or less?
  • Ridiculous!!
    Did anyone else notice the articles reported in yesterday's Star? The cultural trail gets $20 million, while our local IPS educators report they need to cut $26 million from their budget. What is wrong with this picture!?!?!
  • Excellent Project
    Why isn't their a question about whether the $555 million that INDOT is spending on expanding and reconstructing I-465 "pork?" After all, that whopping sum comes from tax money.

    I wish the IBJ would stop pandering to extremists who just want to whine and focus on their own selfish interests. The Cultural Trail consists of major infrastructure improvements--sewers, sidewalks, reconstructed intersections, repaved roads, lighting, landscaping, etc. This is called public infrastructure, which generations of people have accepted should be paid for with taxpayer funds. The day that decent public infrastructure is viewed as "pork," is a sad one indeed.

    We pay taxes precisely to have attractive, functional, and long-lasting infrastructure, and this is what the trail provides. It also creates about 1,000 construction jobs over the life of the project. In addition, it has already encouraged developers to propose new projects along the trail, so it is leveraging private investment which creates more jobs and more long-term local tax revenue.


    As for IPS (as someone mentioned in a snarky comment), the school district received MILLIONS of dollars in federal stimulus funds. In addition, it also received its usual millions of dollars in other state and federal funding. The issue is not that the IPS isn't getting any federal tax funds.

    IPS has long had trouble because of its deteriorating tax base. Now, it is has a huge deficit directly cause by the property tax caps and also the recent cut in state funding. People love to join the "cut taxes" crusade, but then they cry when public services have to be cut because there is less revenue to spend on them. We should be raising the sales tax and creating a higher top bracket for the state income tax, and that money should be going to help our school districts. The Cultural Trail has nothing to do with that issue.

    For years, Indianapolis and Indiana has done everything on the cheap, and this has resulted in nothing but crummy parks, crummy roads, crummy schools, crummy public safety, and in general a crummy community to live in. I am all for balancing costs and benefits, but the final analysis cannot be focused solely on how little can we spend. You get what you pay for, and with the community we've bought on the cheap it's been a bad deal. It's time to spend a little more and get a lot better.

    • Big Money Priorities
      I would much rather have a couple billion dollar grants for high speed rail connecting Indianapolis to the midwest hub or for federally mandated water/sewage upgrades than a few million for sidewalks.

      Guess Andre, Mitch, and Greg can't deliver on the big problems. Much easier to cheer about silly stuff.
    • AMEN, Chris!
      Chris, I couldn't have said this better myself. It amazes me how individuals complain both about the degrading educational environment (as an example) and school funding while going on and on about how they refuse to pay more taxes. You DO get what you pay for. I only wish that there were more people who thought this through prior to voting out Peterson in 07.
    • Chris and Pam
      If indeed Indy is so "crummy", why do you live here? Certainly, you are entitled to you opinions, but is you have such an attitude about the community, the door does swing both ways.

      Regarding schools, so much $$ has been thrown at schools, so what do they do? Move up start time so that kids are going to school in early August. That forces the need for air conditioning which runs up operating and installation costs. Then, school boards opt for athletic palaces that cost mega millions. Then the federal government dumbs down the entire system with forced bussing and trying to be "fair". Next comes forcing mainstreaming of some children who go beyond the ability to learn.

      Costs??? Common sense??? Too much of the former and none of the latter. And we're left with a failure of a public education system. What do you suppose the schools will do in 2014 when the NCLB act forces 100% zero tolerance? No one can live up to that standard.

      We have a mess and it's all because of liberal Washington ideas. Find a way to trim costs - do away with the Department of Education and turn it over to the communities where it belongs.

      Indy - It's not as crummy as you like to say.
      • TRUTH
        Work hard, play but only after working hard. Bring another along who struggles. Make no excuses for your harder to minimize them. Improve your knowledge base by reading, observing, listening. Improve your physical condition by regular exercise; eat healthy whole foods, avoid fried or sugar laden foods. Write to your congressperson and express your opinion, Recycle that which is recyclable; do not litter or pollute the world within which everyone lives. Discipline your children. Do not befriend your children but love them unconditionally. Be consistent in your discipline; support the teacher that upholds discipline in the school; teach your children to be accountable for their actions. Do not expect to be given anything that you have not worked hard to earn. If you are poor work to gain wealth; if you are wealthy be generous but in complete anonymity. Be grateful when you do receive a gift, do not point out others inadequacies but compliment their strengths. Seek joy, discourage bitterness. Support the community in which you live through volunteerism. Uphold and respect the laws that protect your freedom. Appreciate and understand your freedom. If you are not free, work for freedom. Know that all things are connected in all places and at all times. Give of yourself so that others can live. Open your ears to invention and progress. Find the commonalities you share with your enemies. Take that which is good and make it better; take that which is bad and make it better. Let your conscience be your guide in moral decisions. Speak in a blog only that which builds up so that all will rise; Be critical of that which falls down on principle; be supportive of that which is grounded in sound principle. Persevere with the knowledge that you are loved.

        The Cultural Trail in Indy is a good thing...go from there.
        • examples
          This blog is a good example of what is happening in washington. No one agrees and are at extreme ends. Chris.... 465.. one of our most utlized infrastructures in the state .. "pork"? Do you travel to your job? The rest of us do. I can tell needs expanding. At this idea of a light rail? We are way to spread out for just about anyone to use it. And no one wants to ride IndyGo...seriously. Have you been on one of those buses? Indy is a great place to live. And fiscally more sound than most. However IPS sucks. But we hire alot of questionable people to work there. Am I the only one who watches the people they interview from IPS on the news....watched any of their board meetings? How do we expect to educate these kids when the people running IPS seem to have little more than a HS education themselves? Not to mention the fact that all the liberals have tied the hands of the schools with discipline...and these kids parents don't seem to feel any responsiblity to raise responsible respectful chilren who understand the importance of learning. Well I guess if you are 3rd generation wellfare you don't have to, because you can just drop out at 16 and get on the meal wagon like mommy and daddy.... or just mommy...because daddy probably isn't around. You can throw all the money you want at a school system...that won't make people better quality people who take responsiblity for themselves and their progeny. Taxes should never be raised. Taxes are based on a as the economy progresses and cost of living goes do salaries (supposedly) and thereby the % causes increased tax revenue. The answer is to stop spending money you don't have. But if you are a liberal just expect others to pay more.... while we have to budget.
          PS Chris...if you feel you need to start giving more money to the local government... I believe they will accept your inkind donation if you feel so strongly that more of your hard earned money should go to bloated goverment infrastructure.
          • Good Laugh
            In regards to seriously... you say the problem with Washington is that everyone is at extremes... so, you think you're not on one of the extremes? HA! From your rant, you are definitely at one end of the extremes.
          • Good points Chris
            I have been thinking the same things for a long time - Indiana has gotten what it has paid for and that is pretty cheap.

            Look, we get the government that we want. And we get what we pay for. We need to decide what we can do without and what we cannot - sewers, schools, roads, cops, firemen, teachers, meat inspectors, bank regulators.
          • Your Response Isn't On Target
            I got a job offer in another city, and I'm moving. So, yes, I am voting with my feet (as have several others. Check the out-migration statistics for Indianapolis and Indiana).

            Why did I live in Indianapolis so long? Because I was born in the city and I have parents and other family members who I am very close to. Would I have stayed in Indianapolis absent a family connection? No.

            As for schools, my comment was in response to another poster who complained about federal transportation grants (which is what were awarded to the Cultural Trail) being spent on the Trail, instead of IPS. Aside from the fact, that legally federal transportation grants CANNOT be spent on anything, but transportation related projects, I simply pointed out the issue that IPS is not short on funds due to money going to the Cultural Trail, as the original poster seemed to apply.

            As for the rest of your comments, they simply amount to a political screed about supposed "liberal" Washington policies, and they do NOT address any of my points about quality of life in Indianapolis/Indiana or spending priorities.

            In short, you need to try better at your responses.
          • It's Called Responsibility
            First, my comment about I-465 was a rhetorical question. I was not actually implying that I-465 was "pork," but rather I was stating an obvious question: Why do some people not get worked up about TWENTY-SEVEN TIMES the amount of money being spent on one infrastructure project, I-465), but think it's the greatest crime in the world for the smaller amount to be spent on a legitimate project which replaces deteriorated downtown streets, improves sidewalks and tricky intersections, replaces 100+ year old sewers, and generally makes the core of the city more attractive and appealing for residents and visitors? Both projects are legitimate public infrastructure projects that should be funded by public tax dollars.

            Second, IndyGo sucks precisely because it has so few funds invested in it. Indianapolis spends the lowest amount on a bus system for a city its size (and less than some smaller cities), and so naturally it has a pathetic bus system. What is your point? You get what you pay for. Also, I would note that the IndyGo doesn't really have much to do with Cultural Trail?

            Third, to address the other items on your laundry list: As for IPS, "liberals" haven't tied anyone's hands with regards to discipline. But, neglectful parents and an indifferent community certainly have lead to a wayward generation. As for welfare, it was ended as an entitlement back in 1996 under President Clinton--that's 14 years ago, wake up Rip Van Winkle. Now, only proven needy families with children qualify for a MAXIMUM of two consecutive years, with requirements to work or get work training or go to school. There is a LIFETIME maximum of 5 years, period. Indiana imposes other additional requirements and restrictions.

            Finally, as far as "feeling I need to give more money to government," no, I don't like paying taxes anymore than the next person. However, I do appreciate that as a citizen of this country which has bestowed on me more benefits and privileges than just about any other place on earth, I have a responsibility to contribute my fair share to society, and my fair share is NOT just what I feel like donating to my favorite charity, although I try to be as generous as possible. My fair share also consists of paying a mandatory meaningful sum based on my income to support all the public infrastructure and services which benefit me directly and indirectly by providing a livable community with opportunity for all of its members.
          • excellent post Chris
            Excellent post Chris. It seems that everyone in this city thinks that their quality of life is directly attached to how low taxes can be, when this city could be greatly improved with some basic investments. Fixing potholes in a timely manner, mass transit options for current and future young professionals, timely removal of snow regardless of how enjoyable cancellations and delays are. Without these basic upgrades, what company would want to relocate here? With these quality of life improvements in place, perhaps Marion county can grow and recover the tax dollars we have been losing since urban flight to the suburbs occurred.

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          1. How much you wanna bet, that 70% of the jobs created there (after construction) are minimum wage? And Harvey is correct, the vast majority of residents in this project will drive to their jobs, and to think otherwise, is like Harvey says, a pipe dream. Someone working at a restaurant or retail store will not be able to afford living there. What ever happened to people who wanted to build buildings, paying for it themselves? Not a fan of these tax deals.

          2. Uh, no GeorgeP. The project is supposed to bring on 1,000 jobs and those people along with the people that will be living in the new residential will be driving to their jobs. The walkable stuff is a pipe dream. Besides, walkable is defined as having all daily necessities within 1/2 mile. That's not the case here. Never will be.

          3. Brad is on to something there. The merger of the Formula E and IndyCar Series would give IndyCar access to International markets and Formula E access the Indianapolis 500, not to mention some other events in the USA. Maybe after 2016 but before the new Dallara is rolled out for 2018. This give IndyCar two more seasons to run the DW12 and Formula E to get charged up, pun intended. Then shock the racing world, pun intended, but making the 101st Indianapolis 500 a stellar, groundbreaking event: The first all-electric Indy 500, and use that platform to promote the future of the sport.

          4. No, HarveyF, the exact opposite. Greater density and closeness to retail and everyday necessities reduces traffic. When one has to drive miles for necessities, all those cars are on the roads for many miles. When reasonable density is built, low rise in this case, in the middle of a thriving retail area, one has to drive far less, actually reducing the number of cars on the road.

          5. The Indy Star announced today the appointment of a new Beverage Reporter! So instead of insightful reports on Indy pro sports and Indiana college teams, you now get to read stories about the 432nd new brewery open or some obscure Hoosier winery winning a county fair blue ribbon. Yep, that's the coverage we Star readers crave. Not.